OK…so hopefully you have had a bit of time to digest what I said yesterday about how obsolete the rote memorization of times tables and historical facts are without the deeper understanding of the underpinning concepts, causes, and application of those.
No, the truth is that not only does schools fill our children’s minds with useless information, it actually strives to extinguish the very core skills and characteristics that they will need to navigate this brave, new world. Characteristics like…
The ability to question and challenge information and authority
And self-confidence that they can do ANYTHING!
Those are the skills set that we need in this world. The ones that are most prevalent among inventors, entrepreneurs, techie gurus, writers, and successful people in ALL walks of life.
Yet schools not only do not foster those attributes, they actually strive to extinguish them. In the name of order and discipline. They are more about mind-control than preparing our children for the future.
Schools reward…Obedience and Conformity!
But the job market…the REAL world…those skills will actually limit you.
That though is true of every child…not just our neurodivergent ones…but today, I want to examine these issues especially through the experiences of a neurodivergent child…the one that struggles, that does not fit in.
Suppose you are a creative little human. You have always loved making things. You drew pictures…purple elephants, green skies, pink grass, whatever. You loved moving around. You never stopped. Jumping. Running. Muddy puddles.
And you were lucky enough to be born to parents who encouraged you…always told you what a great artist you were…never scolded you for those muddy pants…laughed with you at all the funny, wonderful, and delightful things in life.
Then you went to school. And honestly, at first it was not too bad. You might have liked the story that the teacher was reading to everyone. But you always prefer to listen to your stories lying down. But when you do, she stops reading. Singles you out…and embarrasses you in front of everyone. Then when you go out to play and are finally happy to be running and jumping, the little boy calls you ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’ because you could not even sit still for the story. Then by the end of the day you are tired. So many people, noise, smells. The teacher demands you pick up the toys…and you burst into tears. Which, of course, means you loss your gold star on the board and don’t get a prize. Even though you tired so very, very, very hard all day…seven or eight long hours. And then not just that boy but all the kids call you ‘cry baby.’
You are so upset. You cannot even tell your Mommy what happened. You don’t want to disappoint her too. You don’t want to eat your dinner. You cannot even enjoy it when she reads you a bedtime story. Why can’t you lie down on the rug for the stories at school too? It makes you so much more comfortable. You know that Mommy and Daddy read in read all the time. You lie in bed, crying. You don’t want to go back there tomorrow. You even have bad dreams…that little boy pushes you under a train.
When you wake up, you don’t want to get ready to go back there. Your uniform skirt is too itchy. You hate socks. And it hurts to have your hair combed…every day. You don’t like the food there either. They don’t have any of the things that you are familiar with or like. So you don’t eat all day. That makes your tummy growl…and your head feel funny. More kids pick on you at recess. You try telling the big people/teacher like you tell Mommy when something bothers you at home. But they tell you they are busy. They don’t have time right now. But they don’t look busy. They are talking to each other and drinking something.
And it keeps getting worse. Letters are stupid. You liked drawing. But now the teacher says there is only one ‘correct’ way to hold a crayon. You never had any trouble before. Holding it your way never messed up any of your pictures before you came to nasty old school. But now it does not matter how pretty your picture is…and how cares if grass is green or pink? All the kids keep making fun of you though. Especially when you have trouble with your letters and numbers.
But even the things you like…the butterflies that are hatching from their cocoons…you wonder if they are out yet. You want to check on them. Are they OK? You don’t want antyhing bad to happent to them. That boy was shaking the net before lunch. What if something happened to them? What if he killed them? You will just check on them for a minute. You don’t really get this copying the same word over and over and over again anyway. It hurts your hand to hold the pencil that way. But when you leave your table to check on the cocoons, the teacher snaps at you to ‘get back to your table.’ You feel tears again, but if you cry in front of the others then they will call you ‘cry baby’ again.
You hold it all inside. Like a ‘big girl’. But then when Mommy comes to pick you up, you can’t anymore and you explode. You get angry at Mommy. Doesn’t she love you anymore? Why does she send you there? Of course, then Mommy gets upset with you too. Things keep getting worse and worse. You hate school. You hate those kids. You hate the teacher. You even hate Mommy and Daddy for making you go.
And a piece of you begins to die. A few months ago I took an online Coursera workshop on dyslexia. They called this…cognitive death. The vicious cycle of failure that for most children with dyslexia ends with withdrawal, low self-esteem, and extinguishes the desire to learn.
I know…I did that to my older special needs son. Ironically, we were homeschooling him and the other of my now adult children. We knew that he had ‘special educational needs’ and we honestly believed the lie…schools could educate him better. We were wrong. He experienced that cognitive death. And even at almost thirty, he is still recovering from the damage.
Some of the beautiful art that my son is just beginning to ‘rediscover’ his talent.
Much of the ‘social story’ I just told about the school experience is a fictionalized account of PanKwake’s one year in Reception. Thankfully, I have always been the type that learns from her mistakes. So, when PanKwake had those issues…we took her out. Because we realized…
With our neurodivergent little humans…it goes even deeper than that.
But more on that tomorrow…